The Process of Artistic Evaluation

February 19, 2006

Apologies for the long gap between posts—it’s been a hectic couple of weeks. This post is something of a departure from the steady stream of political/philosophical type posts of late, but it’s probably the sort of departure you should get used to (in degree, if not necessarily in kind, though I am very much into aesthetics). I’ll undoubtedly be back to ‘normal’ in the next post, though.

It has been an enormous source of frustration for me over the years that a majority of people seem to conflate the quality of an artistic work (using ‘artistic’ in a classificatory sense—meaning film/fiction/poetry/whatever—not in an evaluative sense) with the direct enjoyment they get out of it, down to the very silly notion* that a film without a happy ending is inferior to a film with a happy ending. This is mostly harmless, in that the personal enjoyment of a work is probably the most meaningful and readily available gauge for most people, but it shouldn’t be confused with the quality of a work in any universal evaluative sense. I should probably also specify up front that I’m talking about works/genres/mediums with a significant literary or representational element—mostly film and literature, though some visual art and music too. I’m less confident about evaluating non-representational art, though I think a lot of the same principles likely apply.

(Continued below the fold.)

Read the rest of this entry »